“They just can’t get there fast enough.”
Raven-Symoné is one of the few child stars who has defied the odds and maintained a successful career in the industry for over twenty years now. At the age of four, she first landed her big break as Olivia on ‘A Different World’ which blossomed into a pretty extensive reprise of that role on ‘The Cosby Show,’ and then went on to become one of Disney’s go-to girls for projects like ‘Kim Possible,’ ‘Cheetah Girls,’ and even her own TV series, ‘That’s So Raven.’ There comes a time, though, when every young actor or actress outgrows the cutesy factor and should move on to more adult-oriented material. I hate to say it, but that time unfortunately came for Raven-Symoné right before Disney’s ‘College Road Trip.’
In this G-rated comedy, Raven stars as Melanie Porter, a high school senior prepping for her next steppingstone in life — heading off to college. Melanie's overprotective father, Police Chief James Porter (Martin Lawrence), has it all worked out to keep his baby close to the nest. At a mere forty-minute drive, Northwestern University is the perfect campus and compromise, but when one of Melanie’s teachers pulls some strings and scores her an interview at the prestigious Georgetown (seven hundred miles away from their Chicago home), daddy’s dreams of keeping the proverbial umbilical cord intact are shattered. With the future looking bleak for James, the only option left is to bite the bullet and escort Melanie to the meeting on a father-daughter road trip, doing whatever it takes to sway her decision along the way. Except we all know that when desperate times call for desperate measures, things don’t always go according to plan.
I can see what Disney was going for with ‘College Road Trip.’ It’s essentially a coming of age story, not just for Raven-Symoné’s character, but also for her father, who must come to terms with and accept his firstborn child sprouting into adulthood. The main problem, though, is everything is “dumbed down” so much the movie ends up having more of a “kiddie” vibe than it really should have had. It doesn’t help matters either when Raven approaches the role with an over-the-top cuteness and exaggerated expressions that may have worked well for her in her younger days, but felt out of place for a college-related film. The juvenile karaoke song on the bus is only one example of this identity crisis. I’m not a religious follower of teen shows by any means, however I’ve seen a few and the maturity level is usually quite a bit higher than how it’s presented here.
It was also tough to warm up to the other big names in the movie. Martin Lawrence made me smile a couple of times, but he never really settled into a singular character. Sometimes he was the tough head honcho of the police force and Porter family household, and other times he practically became Mr. Rogers. I was waiting for him to sit down and take off his sweater and shoes, and then slip on another indoor sweater and pair of shoes. The other one is Donny Osmond, whose character and his daughter are thrust in to annoy the heck out of the Porters and the viewers. Osmond basically plays a supped-up parody of himself, and I give the guy credit for being a good sport (check out Weird Al Yankovic’s “White and Nerdy” video for more self-spoofing), but it loses some of the impact when Lawrence’s character seems to shift back and forth from loathing him to loving him. It didn’t make much sense to me.
The movie then takes a bizarre turn when Melanie’s younger brother, a science-loving geek named Trey (Eshaya Draper), stows away with his pet potbelly pig Albert for the ride. Pretty well half of the film focuses on the outrageous escapades of this pig — how he’s trained to flush the toilet, can play chess and solve Rubik’s cubes, and gets his snout into all kinds of trouble — but with the movie’s short 83-minute runtime and the pig being such a leap from the rest of the story, it’s totally obvious it was filler. What’s even stranger is the little porker actually steals the show and even the folks at Disney must think so too, as virtually all of the clips running on the Blu-ray menu screen showcase scenes with the genius hog.
When it all was said and done, I had a hard time trying to figure out who the target audience was for this film. Was it for college bound teenagers like the title suggests? No, since the movie is so goofy and childish at times that I can’t see anyone in their late teens calling it “cool.” Is it for preteens then, perhaps? Not really, as kids might find some of the pig parts mildly amusing, but still probably wouldn’t have much interest in any of the college stuff. It most certainly isn’t for adults, as the humor is way too simple and way too safe. I think this is why ‘College Road Trip’ fails. It tries to appeal to the entire crowd, but in the end it doesn’t successfully zone in to any age group.
‘College Road Trip’ parks on a BD-50 with a pristine 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (2.40:1 aspect ratio) encode. Like most Disney/Buena Vista releases, this one is very colorful and vividly striking.
The transfer is very crisp and sharp, with an exceptionally bright color palette featuring bold primaries and lush greenery. The clothing really stands out, and a solid example of this is the reds, whites, and blues of the jumpsuits and helmets. Black levels also remain strong throughout and there’s a good presentation of depth that makes the picture “pop.” Skin tones are natural and highly detailed, and the hair on the pig and the damp sheen of his snout really stands out in high-definition. The image has a very faint layer of grain, but there is no noise and I didn’t catch any imperfections or instances of banding, edge-enhancement or other eyesores. Even though I didn’t care for the movie itself, the picture quality sure glistens and sparkles like Donny Osmond's smile.
Unfortunately, the U.S. release of ‘College Road Trip’ is region-locked and therefore will only play in Region A PlayStation 3, and standalone Blu-ray players.
The audio for the Blu-ray isn’t quite as impressive as the video, but the uncompressed English PCM 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) still holds its own.
This one is primarily front-channel heavy, and there’s plenty of dialogue that can always be heard with clarity from the center channel. As a comedy, there isn’t much bass going on here, although it’s occasionally put to work in some of the party music and when James hits the switch of the newly installed floodlights at grandma’s house. There’s also very little surround activity, except for some periodic drifting music, birds chirping, and most noticeable was the whizzing action of the golf cart duel sequence. Overall it doesn’t sound too bad, just don’t expect to be completely floored.
Additional lossy tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and French are also provided, as well as optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The Blu-ray disc includes all of the supplemental material found on the standard-definition DVD release.
’College Road Trip’ had good intentions trying to be fun-filled family flick, but falls short by taking a grown-up subject and downplaying it too far to make it uber kid-friendly, so ironically, it emerges as a film most of the family can’t enjoy. At least the one saving grace is that if you’re in desperate need of a movie suitable for all eyes and ears, it doesn’t get much safer than this. The Blu-ray sports fantastic video, acceptable audio, and there are enough supplements that one or two may spark someone’s interest. That being said, I’ve seen many better choices out there for G-rated content, so I’d have to say this one is skippable unless you are (or know) a diehard Raven fan.